Potential Convert - Alpha Course Concerns

Hello all. First post here :wave:

I’m an Anglican who wants to convert to Catholicism. A long story so I’ll skip the boring part :wink:

I recently decided to take the plunge and try RCIA, but the church I’m attending mass at has a planned ‘pathway’ which starts with the Alpha Course and then moves on to a kind of Catholicism 101.

Although a little suspicious of Alpha, I attended the first session last week. It was OK, a pleasant meal and conversation followed by a DVD of Nicky Gumbel talking (reminded me totally of all the Anglican vicars I’d grown up listening to), finished off with a talk in a circle on the theme ‘Christianity - Boring, Untrue, Irrelevant?’.
So far so good, but I’m very concerned about the weekend retreat on the Holy Spirit and the whole ‘speaking in tongues’ thing - I thought that kind of behaviour was for the Pentecostalists!

At the first session it seemed to be pretty harmless though. Although the course co-ordinator is a layperson, the Priest was present at all times and chaired the discussions.

I’m feeling very unsure about the whole thing. My wife thinks they are using brainwashing techniques and is worried about me becoming one of those ‘Creepy Christians’ as she put it.

I’m not sure whether I should continue with the course or find another church that does a regular beginner’s class. The thing is the people at my current church are a really warm and friendly bunch.

Does anybody here have experience with Alpha in a Catholic context? Anybody here convert to Catholicism after attending the Alpha Course? Your thoughts and advice are much appreciated :slight_smile:

Aren’t Alpha Courses like really, REALLY basic? If that’s the case and you’re already Anglican you shouldn’t need one - perhaps ask the priest if you can come in for the proper RCIA.

Ask your wife exactly what her concerns are. ‘Creepy Christian’ isn’t very helpful in terms of being able to discuss and reassure her!

Is she worried that you’re going to be in church all day? Praying all night? Give up marital canoodling? Make her pop out ten babies in as many years? Start wearing hairshirts and whipping yourself?

And what exactly does ‘brainwashing’ mean - can she elaborate? Does she expect you to become Catholic without believing what the Church teaches? (hardly seems reasonable does it?). Ask her to come along with you once just to see what actually happens and how you actually go about things in the classes.

Do you have more than one Parish in the area?

Find one where RCIA uses the Catechism and/or a solid program like ACM acmrcia.org/index2.html

Alpha IMHO is fluff and stuff and pointless.

I sort of agree with the OP… it all sounds a bit suspicious from what you have written. I also agree that if you are already a long time Anglican, you should be able to start a regular RCIA. There is no harm or offense if you ask the administrator why you are going to Alpha.

I realllllly through Alpha was a protestant course… I have never heard of the Catholic church using it. Anyone else?

Thanks for your replies.

Allow me to elaborate -

I was raised in a Church of England home and went to CofE schools from the age of 5-13 or so. My mother dragged me to church most Sundays until I was old enough to rebel :wink:

When I began going to the Catholic church last year I hadn’t been to worship in around 20 years. Seeing as I’d found my way back to Christianity again I wanted to start all over, ignoring my childhood experiences. That’s why I thought the Alpha Course may be a good idea - going in as a total beginner and re-learning everything.

The first session was fun enough, but after digging a bit deeper on the Internet, I’m worried about Alpha’s connections to Charismatic Protestant teachings. I want to join the Catholic Church after all!

My wife’s ‘Creepy Christians’ comment was in reference to people speaking in tongues, falling over, having convulsions and wailing… all that kind of stuff. She’s all for regular (ie. non-hysterical) worship but weary of the ‘evangelical guys who do stadium tours’ and the like :slight_smile:

The ‘brainwashing’ comment was in reference to the Alpha Course techniques. Why does everybody have a meal first and then passively watch a DVD? Why does everybody have to go away for the weekend to a closed, controlled environment where they’re coerced into ‘receiving the Holy Spirit’? Doesn’t that sound like the techniques used by cults?
I think she may have a point…

I’m also very curious as to how they do the transition from what sounds like a born-again feelgood gathering to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I grew up with traditional CofE churches - religion and communion was something reverent, studious, genteel in a way. So you can understand why I’m reticent about throwing myself into something that seems so modern and outside my experience. The thing I love about Catholicism is the feeling you’re connecting to something much older, wiser and bigger than yourself with a rich history and traditions. I’m currently inclined to think that Alpha is missing these altogether.

Anyways, the second session is tonight. Part of me thinks I should go check it out and take up all my concerns with the priest running the course, the other part thinks I should forget it all and try another church.

I’d also like to share some of the sites I’ve found with you:

Alpha experiences, testimonials, thoughts, criticisms -
blogs.warwick.ac.uk/loved/entry/christianity_as_a/
pfo.org/alpha-cr.htm
guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2000/oct/21/weekend7.weekend

Alpha Course talks in full from Holy Trinity Brompton, London (the Anglican church where the course began):
htb.org.uk/media/media/all/all/alpha/all

See what you think!

Here endeth the ramble.

To the OP: I think you are right in your concerns. I am embarrassed that my Catholic church offers Alpha at all. As I once said in these forums,* Alpha is a great way for a Catholic to become protestant. (yes, it bothered some people)*

There is really nothing in the Alpha course that deals (correctly) with the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. After receiving that complaint, they tried to address that with a “Catholic version” of the Alpha Course.

I’m sure the originator has great intentions and he has probably brought some people to Christ. But since he doesn’t believe in Confession or the Real Presence in the Eucharist, he certainly isn’t going to include it in his course.
So why not go directly to the teachings of the Catholic church?

Ah, so it was something you decided to do on your own? I think you’d be better off without it. Our RCIA instructors will be gentle with you, I promise! :smiley:

My wife’s ‘Creepy Christians’ comment was in reference to people speaking in tongues, falling over, having convulsions and wailing… all that kind of stuff. She’s all for regular (ie. non-hysterical) worship but weary of the ‘evangelical guys who do stadium tours’ and the like :slight_smile:

Hoo boy does SHE have the wrong idea if she thinks there are many Catholics who are into that stuff! There is a group called ‘Catholic Charismatic Renewal’ who allegedly hold ‘Charismatic Masses’. In 35 years of Catholicism I’ve never seen one - nor even heard of one being held in any parish I’ve lived in or travelled to.

So Catholic worship is as regular and non-hysterical as white bread, although like Anglicanism we might have the very occasional parish that is completely oddball. I went once to a ‘High Church’ (smells and bells) Anglican Mass, and felt right at home, if that’s any indication.

The ‘brainwashing’ comment was in reference to the Alpha Course techniques. Why does everybody have a meal first and then passively watch a DVD? Why does everybody have to go away for the weekend to a closed, controlled environment where they’re coerced into ‘receiving the Holy Spirit’? Doesn’t that sound like the techniques used by cults?
I think she may have a point…

Sounds like the polar opposite of Catholicism, so apart from her probably being right, it doesn’t sound like it would prepare you for becoming Catholic either.

I’m also very curious as to how they do the transition from what sounds like a born-again feelgood gathering to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I grew up with traditional CofE churches - religion and communion was something reverent, studious, genteel in a way. So you can understand why I’m reticent about throwing myself into something that seems so modern and outside my experience. The thing I love about Catholicism is the feeling you’re connecting to something much older, wiser and bigger than yourself with a rich history and traditions. I’m currently inclined to think that Alpha is missing these altogether.

Absolutely - that’s what most of us here like about it too, and it does sound like the Alpha isn’t for you and isn’t particularly Catholic either. So IS the Alpha course actually being run by the Catholic Church then? Or are they maybe just using that church as a place to meet or something?

the parish is undoubtedly using Alpha for Catholics, and the follow-up material will be specifically Catholic. the Retreat weekend is not a life in the spirit seminar, and is not about speaking in tongues, and is not pentecostal in nature (unlessed used in congregations that do foster that type of spirituality–it is not inherent in the Alpha materials, although Pastor Gumbel has a charismatic background).

Alpha is not suitable as the introduction to RCIA for a baptized Christian. They should go directly to “Catholic 101”. It would be appropriate for pre-evangelization or pre-catechumenate for the unbaptized or entirely uncatechized person. for a baptized candidate who never received much instruction previously, or has previously forgotten or rejected what he did get as a youth, Alpha could be a good starting point. But for someone who is already knowledgeable and practicing Christian faith in general, they need to move beyond Alpha and focus on getting what they need to make an intelligent profession of faith and prepare for Confirmation in the Catholic Church.

the good thing about Alpha–and yes, Catholic parishes can use if for evangelization, with appropriate Catholic follow-up–is that it is designed precisely to give a brief intro on the various topics to people who have a “creepy Christian” fear or bias. If you are with someone who has doubts about the whole “Christian” thing in general, Alpha could be a good first step to take together.

As a former teacher/leader/facilitator of Alpha courses at our church (United Methodist) I cannot really see the point of the course in terms of being part of an RCIA process.

The purpose of Alpha is to bring to the unchurched the basic ideas of Christianity. While the course does have some merits and some limited apologetic value I do not understand why it would be used except in the early stages for Catechumen but never for Candidates.

Be Not Afraid- I have helped facilitate an Alpha for Catholics myself at two different Catholic Parishs. After a lot of prayer I realized I need to follow the what the Spirit was asking and proceed. People today are searching for anything spiritual and Alpha will help lead them to take the right steps. People need the basics and then we follow up with Touching Jesus Through the Church and Drinking from the Wells of the Church Both deal with the Catholic teachings of the sacraments and are done by solid Catholic Teachers. My husband actually took an Alpha course at a Episcopal Church and after receiveing a deep hunger for Scripture and Truth he is two years away from being ordained a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. May God Bless you as you continue your journey in Christ.

Personally - I have very little experience with an Alpha course the only thing I think it would be good for is maybe one of those communities where you are inviting the homeless to Church, feeding, and doing street ministry from the basic on up.

Now that being said every parish has to fit the program to the needs of the community but the community should not lose the basic framework of Catholicism. Please know that not everything with the Holy Spirit is Pentacostal or snake-eating. Most of the greatest Post-Christ stuff in Scripture and Cathechism is Holy Spirit-inspired.

God bless you and may the Holy Spirit guide you on your journey.

Last year I attended an Alpha course. I was already a practicing Catholic but went out of curiousity and hoped that I would get something out of it.

The course itself is very basic and it offers a decent introduction to Christianity. My only problem was Gumbel’s protestantism and remarks about Luther as ‘the great reformer’ :rolleyes: However, the topics covered at the course do not touch theological differences because it all stays at a very basic level.

For this reason I’d advise you to find a regular RCIA and dive straight into Catholicism. Alpha would be a serious waste of time for you.

As for the weekend away, it was very much about praying for the release of the Holy Spirit. There were people ‘resting in Spirit’ (falling flat on their back), speaking in tongues, praying over others, etc. The course was organised by the local Catholic Charismatic group so no wonder. They are a legitimate Catholic movement so don’t fear, although the whole thing might seem a bit weird at first. I don’t think you’d end up as a Pentecostal or anything. It might be your thing, or it could simply put you off. I was amused but nothing more.

What I got out of it is that I became friends with a nice girl who started as agnostic and at the end of the course decided to become Catholic :thumbsup:

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